Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why safe driving just doesn't make any sense

DRIVING MISS-TAKES: I'm glad I've never made one.
About two hours ago, I was driving home and some man headed the same direction as me in the lane to my left and a few feet ahead veered right without checking his blind spot. I swerved to avoid an accident. He realized what happened and pulled left again.

I looked over and smiled. Accident avoided.

He wasn't a bad driver. He was neither an idiot nor a moron (as far as I know) and nothing bad happened. Unpleasant words were not needed; nasty gestures would not have improved the situation. Horns could be left unhonked.

He just made a mistake and now he's probably home having supper.

But it did remind me of something that did happen, Monday of this week, in fact.

My daughter Ria and I had to make a quick car trip downtown Toronto just as rush-hour was starting.

A jeweler whose store was at the corner of Yonge and Carlton streets (smack in the middle of Canada’s largest city) had repaired some earrings belonging to my wife Helena. He phoned to let me know they were ready. 

I cherish any time I get to be with my kids so asked Ria if she would come for the ride downtown and run into the store while I waited in the car. It’d save me finding a parking spot.  

She agreed. Sounds simple, right?

Except nothing is, right?

First of all, once we got downtown and headed south on Yonge, I realized that even though I’ve lived in Toronto 30-some years, I’d never noticed that part of Yonge was divided by a concrete flower-planter thingie. There went my plans for a quick you-ee in front of the store. I had to find my way
CRASH TEST PETER: (This blog gives me a  lame excuse
to print this photo  from when my son Michel and I
visited the Ford museum in Detroit.)
around the block so I'd end up in front of the place.

This was suddenly taking longer than planned.

Once there, I learned the jewelry shop is located in such a way that it's not only illegal to stop directly in front of the enterprise, it's also dangerous.  

And it’s winter. The streets are narrower. The roads, sidewalks and curbs are covered in two inches of sloppy slush (or as a friend of Helena once described it, puppyshit).

I pulled around the corner and stopped.

Ria got out. Cars, bikes and big trucks and pedestrians, some on wheels and some on walkers, some in pairs and some alone, were everywhere. Plus my windows were partially fogged up. I couldn't stay put.   

I inched forward, turned right and found myself facing down a one-way street that served absolutely no purpose whatsoever. I reversed and realized that if I backed into the exit-lane of a parking lot I would be properly oriented to fetch Ria when she came out of the store.

It all worked okay except some guy wanted to actually leave the parking lot, so I had to drive around another block and came around the corner again just when Ria got back to the street. She jumped into the car and said, “I didn’t have my credit card on me and it’s going to cost a bit. Can I get yours?”

I reached for my wallet. Because I was wearing a long winter coat, even that maneuver required some unprecedented twisting and tugging.  In fact I had to unbuckle my seat belt only to learn the coat's belt was caught in the door so I had to quickly open and shut the car door to get my wallet.  That meant doing a quick shoulder check to make sure it was safe and at the same time I was thinking,“What time did I say I’d pick up Michel?”

Ria jumped out  and I had to start wheedling around in traffic again until I picked her up again and home we went.

And I thought, “That's the kind of thing that should be on drivers’ exams: Real-world driving.”

And then I thought--or maybe even said, “Isn’t it amazing what good drivers most drivers are?” 

Consider: Every day, around the planet—the  VAST majority of drivers, not just a lucky few but almost EVERY SINGLE one—whether they're on some Peruvian switchback, lost in a suburb of Varanasi, India where no car has ever stayed in its lane for more than a second or two, or dropping a daughter in front of a jeweler in downtown Toronto, Canada, in the middle of a snowy afternoon—gets to where where he or she is going.

THE MINDBOGGLER? Almost everybody makes it home unscratched.

Mind-boggling. Especially because every last one of them is controlling what amounts to a really dangerous thing; and by dangerous thing I of course mean a car. 

Sure there're close calls like my friend up there in the first paragraph, but so what? We generally all make it.

Tall drivers, short drivers; short-sighted drivers, colour-blind drivers, hard-of-hearing people, angry types, Irish types, sleepy ones, stoned ones, in-love teenagers; out-of-love divorced folks,  lazy guys like me and arthritic drivers with muscles too sore to check their blind spots.

Drivers who just had a fight with their husbands and are so mad they think the guy in front of them is slowing down just to get them madder.

Drivers who can't read English.

Nun drivers who simply aim the car and let God steer.

People whose brakes don’t work so good. Drivers who feel it takes too much of their valuable time to flick a signal-light switch.

And far too many drivers doing exactly the kind of crazy wardrobe adjustments I like the one I was doing.   

While you’re driving, you’re talking, planning, singing, arguing, fretting, sweating, laughing, having to go to the bathroom or just plain lost.

The only driver who is not distracted is a robot. 

Plus you and all the other vehicles are barreling ahead, as Stephen Leacock would say, madly off in all directions.

The thing is, WAY MOST of them don’t get into accidents. Almost everybody makes it home.   

It just doesn’t make sense.

Or is it just me?

1 comment:

  1. You forgot the mentally ill people like myself. Bi-polar and in a manic state thinking he is driving a tank and not a old Volkswagen Beetle.